Leading Wales property business Paul Fosh Auctions has ruled out a return to terrestrial sales after almost a year of operating completely online.
The Newport-based property sales and lettings business, which celebrates two decades in business this month, is preparing to post its best ever annual sales figures after operating ‘virtually' for the past year.
Until spring 2020 the property business, consistently number one for sales and revenue in Wales, would attract some 250-300 people to its bi monthly auctions in Cardiff. A ballroom sale planned for March 2020 was axed when covid-19 lockdown and mass gatherings of people were banned.
Forced online overnight the sale of some eighty properties was a huge success and since then Paul Fosh Auctions has operated totally online for its property sales recording ever better figures over the months.
Owner Paul Fosh, who started the business in February 2001 and still retains three members of the original team of four, speaking after almost 12 months online, said:
“Will we ever go back to auctions in sale rooms? Absolutely not”
Paul, who opened his first office in Gold Tops, Newport, on February 1, 2001 before moving to Church Road and now with headquarters in Lower Dock Street, said, going online after standing in front of a packed hall gavel in hand for almost twenty years, had been a revelation.
“Although I enjoy standing on a rostrum, in front of a room full of people the stats prove why we should never go back to a room sale. Online we have thousands of people registered to bid. With the best will in the world in a room sale we have between 250 and 300 people in an auction room with probably only half of those registered to bid.
“The online sales attract bids from people across some sixty countries and record more than 100,000 hits on the website during a typical online sale. People bid from wherever they may be, on their smart phones and mobile devices, sitting by the pool and across all time zones.”
Paul Fosh Auctions now hosts virtual tours of properties for sale allowing potential buyers, wherever they are in the world, to a detailed and intimate view of what they want to buy.
“Going online has opened up the auctions to more and more people around the world. Online auctions are here to stay, and I don't ever see us going back to auction room sales.”
Paul Fosh Auctions, which launched a lettings business three years ago, now offers a complete package from buying to renovation and renting to sales.
“A favourite saying is that If you stand still then you are going backwards so we are constantly trying to evolve and refine ourselves and improve through the use of new technology.
“One of the evolutions that we have seen is the development of the lettings business under Adrian Smith which is something we wanted to do for a while. We run this business as a one stop shop. People can buy a property, we can oversee refurbishment, rent it out for them and then sell on if that is what you want. And there will be further developments of the business in the pipeline’’.
The auction house, a regular on the BBC's popular day time programme Homes Under the Hammer, is in negotiations with a TV business for a new joint venture.
“This financial year is looking like it is going to be a record year for us in terms of volume of sales and the value of those sales. I put that down to the incredible dedication of the staff that we have at the company and the way that they adapt and do whatever is required and whatever it takes to get things done and loyal customers.”
Paul said it was fortunate that they had trialed online sales before operations went totally online in March last year.
“Good luck is the meeting of preparation with opportunity. We prepared all these things and the opportunity, in the form of the lockdown of mass meetings, arose.”
Over the past 20 years Paul Fosh Auctions has sold the full range of properties from two up two down terraced South Wales valleys homes to mansions.
The property which got the business up and running was a traditional mid terraced house in the former mining town of Merthyr Tydfil.
The house, which had a guide price of between £9,000 and £13,000 sold at the ballroom sale for £13,000. A subsequent property in the same sale at Mountain Ash listed with a guide price of £3,000 to £6,000 sold for £4,000.
There were certainly bargains to be had in those days and Paul Fosh, who remembers most of the properties he's handled over the years, says despite prices rising steadily over the past two decades there are still good value for money buys to be had.
The same properties sold today would now be worth 10 times the price achieved although yields of 20 per cent then, allowing buyers effectively to buy properties outright in five years, were more likely to have halved to some ten per cent these days.
Paul Fosh started Paul Fosh Auctions in an office on Gold Tops, Newport, with a staff of three on February 1, 2001 with the first property sale six weeks later.
“We were flying by the seat of our pants in those early months. It was incredibly exciting and things went incredibly well from the get go. We had our first sale six week after we launched after I'd been to the car auctions to get cheap cars for the staff.”
Paul, who lives in Monmouth, paid tribute to his long serving staff who had made the difference over the past 20 years. A trio of staff have been at the business the entire two decades while others had been with the auctioneers for almost as long.
” Longevity in incredibly important to the company. What customers don't want is a churn of staff. It's something I value personally, and I know it's something others value highly as well.”
And what about the future?
“Our online platform has been a phenomenal success for the business. Whereas I was initially sceptical now I absolutely love it. It ‘s been a great success for the business. The buzz from the auction room is just as strong now online if not more so with our 48 hour online auctions.
“We are constantly working with new technologies to allow us to be as flexible as possible working from home but being able to work as if we were all in the same office. We will continue to work this way and I look forward with excitement to the next 20 years.”